The Madonnas of Leningrad

Hello everyone! I just got finished with the Madonnas of Leningrad last night (it’s certainly about time— first time I had to renew a library book in a LONG time), so I thought I’d write my review while it’s still fresh in my mind. I’d give the book a 3.5 out of 5 stars.

The most pressing thing for me was the connection I had with the way this book tied into my memories of the Hermitage. I was in Russia a bit over a year ago now. I love Russia, and my month long trip was a dream come true. I spent a couple days in the Hermitage, and it was not nearly enough. I read this book not because of Russia, but because I am reading for the Mental Illness Advocacy Challenge, and this book was under the reads for Alzheimer’s. I wish I got more of the emotions and feelings about this women going through her disease, but what I got was lovely as well. I really love how the women can see the beauty in everything now—- dust floating in the air, the sun rays coming in. How many of us take the time to appreciate the beauty life has to offer? 

I think the author did a great job in portraying the main character slipping in and out of reality. I really enjoy (and I use this lightly because it’s heart breaking) how she did a particular scene where the character feels like she is reliving her past and present at the same moment. The book in general is beautifully written. Her descriptions and word choice brings about a whole host of emotions throughout the novel.

Despite this, the book feels disjointed and choppy, but this has to be taken with a grain of salt though because it is supposed to be! The women is going deeper and deeper into her disease and so one moment she is with everyone and the next reliving her past with the siege of Leningrad. 

I’d like to know more about things in the story and incidents that took place; there’s so much to the story that I’d like to continue. I feel like this could be my real life, begging my grandmother to tell me more stories and yet she simply does not or does not remember. I find it a huge shame, though understandable, that in this book the children know nothing of their parents’ life during the war. 

Overall I think the book is good. I would’ve liked more though. But I still recommend this book— especially if anyone has visited the Hermitage before. It’s amazing how a few words the author write brings up clear memories of things I’ve seen in the museum. I am not a huge art fan, so I looked, but didn’t study most of the paintings. I love the statues, walls & ceilings, the Egyptian art & sarcophagi, the armor (the stuffed horses!), and I even clearly remember the paintings of the dead game—- I think I was particularly morbid back then. Going through some old photographs I think I must have a photo of that urn that weighed so much they couldn’t bring it up. There’s 2 photos I have that pretty clearly fit the bill—- how on earth can they have moved these?!

I also really enjoyed the character Anya I believe it was, the babushka that helped Marina build her memory palace. She reminded me of this woman that was one of the “sitters” in the Hermitage in a room filled with statues. I loved the statues but I didn’t spend a whole lot of time studying them, just a few snaps a couple of looks at the sign and I kept walking with my friends. The lady was upset with us, from what I understood in my broken Russian she was quizzing us about when the pieces were made, who made them, etc. I would never have known had she not schooled us. In the book, the children Marina gave a tour to astounded me. There’s no way kids in the US would be so educated. I was proud of those little ones giving the answers— despite me not knowing them myself!

Anyways, I’m rambling now. I do hope others read the book to experience these things as well! On to the next book, I think I’ll take a break from my reading challenges having completed 2 books for each now. I think I will read a book I’ve been being pestered to read— World War Z. Onwards to the library!


One thought on “The Madonnas of Leningrad

  1. Thanks again for participating in MIA!

    One of the great things about these books that DOES make some people uncomfortable is that they put you in the mind of someone with a mental illness. It makes you feel life the way they do and hopefully come to understand a bit more.

    I’m sure Alzheimer’s is one of the more disjointed ones, though.

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